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Archive for April, 2008

Ten Ways To Rid Yourself Of Friends Forever

Friday, April 25th, 2008

For those of you who are sick of others, I have some perfect remedies for you. Just think, you won’t have answer any pesky emails, your Christmas gift list will only have one name on it (yours), you won’t have to share your beer and Pringles, you get complete control over the TV remote and best of all? You’re right all the time. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? Well, I guarantee, if you follow my ten steps below*, you, too, can be friendless and alone.

Number One: Cultivate An Irritating Tic or Habit

Continually chew ice: that squeaking sound is the closest noise to fingernails-on-a-chalkboard you can make with your mouth. Clear your Eustachian tubes often: it makes a lovely, high-pitched honking noise. Don’t blink—this really disconcerts people. Suck on your teeth. Suck on your hair. Spit often. Twitch frequently. Chain smoke. Develop a high-pitched squeal of a laugh and laugh often at inappropriate times. The key to irritating tics is that you must commit to them. Be diligent. It’s like the old water torture. It’s the continual repetition of these habits that causes the true torment to those around you.

Number Two: Be Cheap

When at the end of a meal in a restaurant, keep a keen eye out for the server. As soon as you see the bill coming, throw out a wad of crumpled bills onto the table—make sure they are all ones—then get up, head to the bathroom and stay there. Another trick: when the bill arrives, pat yourself all over and proclaim you forgot your wallet. Assure your friends that you will pay them back—they always fall for that one! Or take the bill from the waitress and go over it, line by line. Explain to your group why you don’t have to pay much. Remind them that you sent back the soup for being too salty, the salad because the cherry tomatoes weren’t completely spherical. And that you only had water. Forget the five rum and cokes you had earlier. Another option: leave before the bill comes. Explain that you’re late to a very important appointment, that you had very little to eat, that the meals your five children ate don’t count because kids don’t eat much. Toss a twenty onto the table and split. Again when employing these “cheap” tactics, it’s important to be consistent. It’s only after the fourth or fifth time you’ve forgotten your wallet that people will begin to see the pattern. You’re trying to get rid of these people, remember? So be dedicated. And make sure to leave that pesky wallet at home!

Number Three: Talk Only About Yourself

Remember that subject matter is the most important thing when boring people to death. Above all, it must concern yourself. If anyone ventures their opinion, turn the conversation back to yourself. Whatever topic comes up, say “That reminds me of a story. When I was ten…” Make sure your stories don’t relate at all to the subject. This really bugs people. Tell stories in real time. If you are older than sixty, never talk about anything that happened after you turned twenty. Talk about how bad things are today as compared to when you were a child. If you run out of stories about yourself, talk about the most inane subjects you can think of: when you went to Home Depot recently and got nails, the brands of motor oil available on the market today, the differences between varieties of trout. Don’t let anyone get a word in edgewise. Interrupt if others take the reins of the conversation. Stop only when your audience is gripping the arms of their chairs to stop themselves from punching you.

Number Four: Never RSVP

Especially if you are invited to a small dinner party. Or better yet, when a couple or a single friend has invited you over. Lead them to believe you will be there so they buy all kinds of extra food and clean their house. Then just don’t show up. Soon, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to RSVP—you won’t be invited anywhere! Joy!

Number Five: Inflict Your Ill-Behaved Children On Your Friends

Arm Timmy with an ax, a squirt gun and a toy that makes an insane amount of noise. Preferably a one-man-band. Instruct your children to run through your host’s house at top speed while screaming at the top of their lungs. Make sure they run into the china cabinet or something containing many fragile knickknacks. Give them sticky foods and don’t let them wash their hands. Make sure that they leave goopy fingerprints on the host’s new baby grand piano or mahogany dining room table. Have your children go through all the personal items of the host; through their drawers and closets. If possible, make sure the baby loses their diapers and messes on the host’s new Berber carpet. Snacks to bring: pomegranates, raspberries, beets, chocolate—anything that’s sure to leave permanent stains.

Number Six: When People Try To Dump You—STOP THEM

This is a very necessary step to ensure that the friends you’ve successfully driven out of your life, stay out of your life. When you first feel the signs of the cold shoulder, make sure to start plaguing the friend with phone calls. If they still ignore you, send them cards with poems you wrote about them. About how special their friendship is to you. Even if the person has ignored your calls for a year, don’t stop. Send them Christmas cards acknowledging the fact that they’ve obviously been too busy to get back to you. Be understanding. Then make them feel as guilty as you possibly can. Mention a disease you can’t speak about, imply you might be dying. Let them know they are the only friend you have left. How much they mean to you. Then make sure to flatter them. Lead them to believe there is actually some benefit in calling you. If they cave and call you, make sure to roast them over the coals for taking their sweet time in getting back to you. Eventually, they will hate you enough to contemplate putting out a contract on you, just so they’ll never have to hear your voice again. Won’t that be cool?

Number Seven: Complain About The Gifts They Give You

This is a wonderful tool for turning a thoughtful gesture into a nightmare. Tell your friend that the gift wasn’t the right color, the right size and it didn’t go with your new Berber carpet. Tell them if they really loved you, they wouldn’t have gotten you such an inappropriate gift. They should have instinctively known what you wanted. Make sure they return the unwanted gift and give you the cash. Make them feel horrible for letting you down. Try to make them cry. Talk about human repellent!

Number Eight: Try To Convert Your Friends

Amway, the Forum, politics, religion—any didactic fundamentalist dogma should drive them away. Pontificate on the merits of your newfound platform. Respond to your friend’s natural objections with oblique questions such as: So you don’t like money? So you don’t want to improve yourself? So you want to be in pain for the rest of your life? So you like being poor? Are you afraid of the truth?

If they don’t respond to the questions, attack them. Say things like: You just want to be a loser for the rest of your life, is that it? I thought you were smarter, I guess you’re not ready to be a millionaire. Well, it’s clear you’re not worthy of God’s love. You deserve to be left behind. Well, when I’m on my private island, having my feet rubbed by a local islander, sipping on a frosty drink, I’ll think of you toiling away in your cubicle, chained to your desk. Repeat the above incessantly. Don’t let the conversation end, either. Don’t give up. Eventually, your friends will give you money just to make you go away.

Number Nine: Gross Them Out

Bring the video of the birth of your child to the party. Force everyone to watch it before dinner. Compare parts of the meal to the experience. Talk about your recent colonoscopy. If the doctor has furnished you with pictures, bring them. Make sure to show people the polyps. Work your bodily fluids into every conversation. Talk at length about your recent bout of dysentery. When dining with people, fill your mouth with food and then start talking. Spit little bits of food onto your dinner companions and their plates. When your audience turns good and green and begins rushing to the bathroom—you’ve done your job.

Number Ten: Ignore All Social Conventions

Stand too close. Talk too loudly (of course, not all people who talk too loudly are bad people…). Arrive late. Stay late. Drink too much. Vomit in inventive places. Tip: try the potted plants or behind the bookcase—people love to be surprised!

You know what’s great about being a writer? You can write columns like this one, insult the hell out of the people who annoy you, and the annoying people never see themselves nor their behavior in your examples. Or maybe that’s what’s not great about being a writer…

* All of the above examples were based upon true events that happened to either me or a close friend.

© 2004, Janet Periat

Eight Things Marriage Has Taught Me

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Hey Humans!

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I was off in Arizona pitching my work to agents and editors. What a great conference! I had such a good time and saw my niece, too. And her husband and daughter. And dog. Arizona rocks! No pun intended. It’s such a beautiful state and so bloody cheap compared to California.

So here is a column I wrote a while back about the joys of marriage. I hope you enjoy!

Out of my forty-five years, I have been married or in a committed relationship for twenty-eight of them. This means that I have been annoyed for most of my adult life. While I wouldn’t change anything, it’s sure fun to bitch.

Number One: We Are All Total Quirky Freaks

I am obsessed with time. Frank is obsessed with doing things “right”. Frank is the kind of guy who walks into the dentist office as the hands of the clock land exactly on the time of his appointment. I am at the dentist office one half hour before I need to be there. I am everywhere one half an hour before I need to be there. I have a wholly unnatural fear of being late. Whenever we venture out together, whether it’s to a party, an appointment, anywhere, I am pacing, looking at the clock, sweating and swearing to myself. Is he ready yet? Why aren’t we leaving? We’re going to be late! Could he please hurry up? Asking Frank to hurry up activates the passive/aggressive module in his brain which makes him move even more slowly. I swear, he looks like a film stuck in slow motion. Which drives me INSANE. I am always convinced we are going to be late and if we’re late… well, you know. The entire world will end.

According to Frank, I open the mail wrong, I break down boxes wrong and I fix my tea wrong. Mail is opened with a letter opener. Period. It is not ripped open and teeth should never EVER be involved. One does not stomp on a box to break it down, one carefully dismantles the box, like reverse Origami. When making tea, after the tea has steeped for the appropriate length of time, the teaball is removed and THEN the milk and sugar is added. Here’s his direct quote: “See, you add the milk and sugar while the teaball is still in the cup. So when you remove the teaball, the tea leaves, milk and sugar create a perfect medium for bacterial growth.” And tea bacteria is a very dangerous thing indeed. I’m sure I’m creating the next Superfund site with all my negligent tea making. Biohazard Central. Someone call the Bacteria Police. Of course, according to Frank, I should have been cited by the Time Police a long time ago.

Number Two: There Is No Way To Listen To Your Spouse All The Time

Frank and I have cultivated the art of looking like we’re listening to the other when we are not. We both nod at the appropriate times and say “uh-huh” all the while we are busy thinking about other things. Frank’s brain is mostly concerned with banjo, robotics, electronics, computers and some of the most mind-dulling subjects on the planet (to me). My brain is either producing plots for novels or feasting upon the latest nugget of local gossip (infinitely more interesting than boring old science). I’ve even tried to listen to him sometimes, made a great effort in paying attention to him, but I’ve found that I’m physically incapable of listening to him talk about something that doesn’t interest me. Apparently, he has the same difficulty. Mostly, however, we actually believe the other is paying attention to us, until we get tested. “Where are you going?” he’ll ask. “I just told you. I’m going to town. You even said ‘oh, good, town,” I reply. “I did?” “Yes, you did.” “Oh. Well, I still wasn’t listening to you.” “Okay, so I’m going to town.” “You’re going to town, NOW?” “That’s what I just said.” “You didn’t say you were going now.” “Yes, I did.” “I didn’t hear you.” “I just told you.” “Oh. So…can you pick me up a sandwich?”

Number Three: Men Like Fire

Frank is obsessed with making fire. He has books, videos and more steel and flint devices than I ever knew existed. From when he was a Boy Scout to now, he has spent much of his life in this singular pursuit. But never with a lighter. Fire creation has to be done with some weird device that originated on some South Pacific Island that uses a special fungus for tinder. On our hearth, we have piles of various fungi, specifically drying for his fire-making. We have cat-tails hanging near the fireplace, drying, which also makes excellent tinder, he tells me. I’m like, “Buy a frickin’ lighter and get that crap outta my house.” However, I will say, Frank is Mr. Fire Safety Man. He has never lit anything on fire by accident other than his own hair (that’s another column).

Which is totally unlike my first husband, Mark. Mark was a pyromaniac. This one time, we borrowed my parent’s Weber kettle for a barbecue. We had no charcoal lighter fluid so unbeknownst to me, Mark decided to use gasoline. Yes, gasoline. One of the many things he didn’t take into account when making this decision was the vents at the bottom of the kettle. The gasoline went past the briquettes and pooled in the ash catch basin under the kettle. After the explosion, I rushed outside to see not a barbecue, but a giant fireball on metal legs. This wasn’t even our fireball on metal legs, this was my parents’ fireball on metal legs. Basically, Mark barbecued my parents’ barbecue. Mark had also forgotten to take into account where the barbecue was located: under some low-hanging branches, which, by the time I got outside, were smoking nicely. (Reason #457 for why Mark is now my EX husband.)

Number Four: Men Want What Their Wives Have

Food, the TV remote, seemingly everything. Whatever I’m eating, whether it be at home or in a restaurant, Frank wants a bite. Or all of it. In the morning, whatever I’m reading, Frank wants to read it. I pick out a magazine, start reading and there’s Frank, vulching, trying to get a peek at the article. When I won’t let him read over my shoulder, he sits across from me and attempts to read the back of the magazine. “Hey, can you hold that up? No, higher.” Pretty soon, I’m turned into a pretzel, trying to hold the article so we can both read it. (I’ve complained so much about this proclivity of Frank’s that he has now perfected the art of reading print upside down.)

Number Five: Men Cannot Multi-Task

Normally, when I watch TV, I’m playing a videogame on my handheld, reading a magazine, flipping through a catalog, making a list for the grocery store, jotting down a plot for a novel, planning our next vacation and munching on popcorn. Frank is watching TV. That’s it. He is also incapable of looking away if the set is on. “Honey?” I ask. No response. There is a Charmin commercial on. “Honey, this is a commercial, can I ask you something?” No response. “Frank!” “What? Why are you shouting?” he demands. “Because I want your attention.” “Oh.” “So, when are we going over the hill?” No response, his eyes are glued to the Cingular commercial. “Frank!” “What? Why are you shouting?” Repeat ad infinitum. Frank, however, remembers every plot to every movie we’ve ever seen. I could watch the same movie every six months and it’s new every time.

Number Six: Men Never Tire Of Seeing Their Wives Naked

And God bless them for that. At forty-five and kinda flabby, this truly is a gift.

Number Seven: Marriage Is All About Not Killing The Other Person

People are annoying. People you live with are even more annoying. Spouses are the most annoying thing next to children or your parents. So why do married people live longer than single people? I think it’s because married people make a special effort to outlive their partner—just so they can have the last word.

Number Eight: Women Are Better At Finding Things Than Men Are

“Honey, where’s the butter?” he asks. “Where’s it’s been for the past seventeen years,” I answer snidely. “Where’s that?” “In the butter compartment in the door.” Pause. “It’s not there now.” “Yeah, it is, I saw it there this morning.” “Well, it’s not here now.” “I’m busy,” I counter, even more irritated. “I need the butter, my toast is almost done,” he says in an urgent tone. “Goddamnit, you want me to come in there, don’t you?” “The butter is not in the compartment,” he replies. I throw down my notebook, stomp into the kitchen, fling open the fridge door. “Oh, it’s not there,” I reply, momentarily embarrassed. “See?” he says. Then I spot the butter, just six inches away from the compartment on a shelf. “Well, dude, look, it’s right there, like, six inches away.” “Oh, I looked there, but the butter was cleverly disguised as cheese.” This conversation happens every day in every corner of the globe. “Honey, where’s the yak butter?”

Okay, so husbands and wives are irritating. But without them, who would we blame for misplacing our socks?

© 2004, Janet Periat

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